By Cassidy Pate, News Editor
In line with the Local Disaster Declaration for Public Health Emergency associated with COVID-19, or coronavirus, published by Bell County Judge and County Emergency Management Director David Blackburn on Wednesday, Directive #2 has been issued and prohibits all gatherings of 10 or more people anywhere in the county. This Directive will go into effect tonight at midnight and will remain in effect until further notice. Bell County continues to be in stage three of the Bell County COVID-19 Action Plan.
Dr. Amanda Robinson-Chadwell, Director of the Bell County Public Health District (BCPHD), provided a few data updates on the national and local levels to provide support for this action:
- Nationwide: 15,219 COVID-19 cases and 201 deaths
- Texas: 194 COVID-19 cases and five deaths
- Bell County: two new cases have been identified, making seven total. The sixth case is an individual in Temple with a travel history, and the seventh case was locally acquired through direct sustained contact with a travel-related case. This means community spread of COVID-19 has begun.
“The intent and purposes of Directive #2 is simply to try to be as consistent as we can with the governor’s executive order and what he has called for across the state of Texas,” Blackburn said.
Although this Directive will replace and supersede Directive #1, the measures set forth by Directive #1 remain with the replacement of 10 people rather than 50. This Directive clarifies gatherings in ‘confined’ and ‘enclosed’ spaces as “…any area that has a barrier such as a fence or railing or other barrier on more than one side of the area,” Directive #2 said.
Exceptions do exist with the understanding that social distancing must be practiced in transit locations, such as airports, bus stations or terminals, office spaces, public and private schools, child-care facilities, residential units, commercial retail locations, hospitals and medical facilities.
Directive #2 adds the closure of massage parlors and prohibits visitation to nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities, with the exception of critical assistance.
In addition, all private and public schools are to be closed until 11:59 p.m. at April 3.
Failure to comply with Directive #2 is a punishable offense of up to a $1 thousand fine per day or confinement in jail for a term of 180 days or less.
With this, Blackburn emphasized the importance of the CDC’s recommendations to actively practice social distancing, personal hygiene procedures and staying home if you are sick.
“What I would urge them to do which I think I’ve done each time at this podium is please remain calm, please have faith and confidence in your leadership, in our health authorities, and please follow the Directives and recommendations that those health authorities are providing for us,” Blackburn said.
There will be an FAQ document posted on the Bell County website by close of business today: www.bellcountytx.com, and the BCPHD will be uploading information and links on their website: www.bellcountyhealth.org. Additionally, a COVID-19 hotline phone bank is set to go live on Saturday, March 21 and will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for Bell County residents to call should they have questions or need to report a non-compliance issue. To speak to a representative about COVID-19, dial 211.